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New Jersey Adds Arts to School-Performance Reports

New Jersey now includes metrics about arts education in its annual school reports—and education officials there say that makes it the first state to do so. 

Like in other states, the education department in New Jersey publishes performance reports to inform teachers, parents, and students about how well a school is faring. These historically have included measures such as graduation rates, test scores, attendance, and class sizes.

The new reports, the education department announced Tuesday, also show the percentage of a school's population enrolled in the arts and the percentage of high school students enrolled in specific art disciplines—dance, music, theater, and visual art. 

New Jersey requires students to take at least one visual or performing art class to graduate. The recent data show that 47 percent of New Jersey high school students took classes in the arts during the 2012-13 school year—nearly double the 25 percent expected to be enrolled if students each only took the minimum of one such class. The most popular discipline was visual arts, with 30 percent of all New Jersey students enrolled. Music fell just behind, with 16 percent of students enrolled. 

"This is a big step forward since it sends a strong signal about the importance of the arts as part of the basic education for all students," Bob Morrison, chair of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership and CEO of Quadrant Research, wrote in an email. "This also demonstrates for other states that it is possible to measure and report on the arts. Not everything needs to be measured by tests!"

It's worth noting that many districts nationwide, especially those hit by funding cuts, have turned to arts integration—incorporating the arts into the core curriculum—to keep students involved. Those kinds of programs might be harder to track in a school-performance report. 

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